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Making Your Organization Accessible for Ontario's Newcomers

By developing work environments that are conducive to diversity, inclusion, and international accessibility, Ontario’s manufacturers can leverage the province’s newcomer population to address their industry’s labour crises.

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As the Canadian manufacturing sector’s labour shortage continues to impact businesses across every industry, employers have been searching outside of traditional worker demographics to prevent productivity losses. One of Ontario’s most prosperous sources of manufacturing labourers is in the province’s “newcomer” population — newly-immigrated temporary or permanent residents eager to join the workforce. By creating workspaces in which these newcomers feel comfortable, recognized, and appreciated, Ontarian manufacturers have the opportunity to supplement their employee bases with a steady stream of passionate, motivated labour. Let’s analyze several methods of promoting newcomer accessibility throughout our workplaces, and identify a number of resources that can make the process easier.

Oftentimes, employers are apprehensive to hire newcomers to Canada due to potential communication issues. During a recent EMC event surrounding newcomer accessibility, many employers stated that strong skills in reading and writing English were necessary for roles in their facilities, and that, if potential employees could not demonstrate these abilities during the hiring process, they would not be considered for recruitment. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, these fears could be alleviated through in-person job fairs, where employers had a chance to meet and communicate with newcomers directly — now, virtual job fairs that utilize video meeting software fulfill this role. Ontario also houses a wide variety of public and private programs, initiatives, and institutions, such as the Ontario Trades Newcomer Action Program, that are specifically designed to evaluate and verify the transferable skills of international labourers for use in the province’s workplaces. Certain verification processes, including Skilled Trades Ontario's Trade Equivalency Assessment, exist to translate trade experience gained outside of Canada into their domestic equivalents, maintaining worker knowledge and significantly reducing training periods.

Employee retainment is another labour issue at the forefront of business leaders’ minds, and building loyalty among newcomer workers requires significant consideration of one’s company culture. Assess your own workplace — is it conducive to the intermingling of various cultures, ideals, and values? Do employees from all backgrounds feel safe, comfortable, and encouraged to put their best efforts forward? Workplace anxiety is common for new employees of any kind, and this issue is often exponentially increased for those working in unfamiliar environments. When establishing or re-establishing your internal corporate identity, put thought towards fostering diversity and mutual understanding throughout every level of your organization. Also be sure to provide employees with thorough conflict management training to defuse issues stemming from miscommunication or varying work habits in a constructive, non-threatening manner. Remember: employees that are not hampered by the numerous stressors of working in an uncomfortable facility can put far more concentration towards their fulfilling their roles than those that are.

Leveraging Ontario’s newcomer population is an effective, sustainable way to bolster one’s labour force, but employers must put forth a strong, balanced effort to ensure these demographics are properly captured and engaged. Creating an accessible work environment for internationally-trained workers requires careful consideration of established practices and the introduction of new ones, but the reward for these actions can provide a practical solution to the manufacturing sector’s labour crisis.

For more on effectively integrating newcomers into your company’s labour force, contact Leah Nacua, EMC’s Manufacturing Consortium Manager for Toronto and the GTA.

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